Prodigy Hitmen edge Team Crush at 15U Boys of Summer

By DN WRITING STAFF | July 31, 2023

Marcus Lavornia of Prodigy Hitmen leaps for throw as Jayden Cassese steals third for Team Crush. 

By Sean Reilly 

Some wins are more satisfying than others, and that was the case for the Prodigy Hitmen in defeating Team Crush on Sunday at the 15U Diamond Nation Boys of Summer tournament. 

The Somerset County-based team trailed until the fourth inning and went ahead with a two-run bottom of the sixth to defeat its opponent from Westchester County, N.Y., 3-1, in Flemington. 

A key performer in the win was pitcher Dylan Kelly. The right-hander from Bridgewater-Raritan High School pitched a four-hitter, with three strikeouts and six walks. Two of those hits and three of the walks came in the top of the first, when Team Crush scored its run. 

At the plate, Kelly drew a two-out walk on a full-count and his courtesy runner scored the tying run in the fourth inning. He also supplied an RBI groundout for a two-run lead in the sixth as his team registered a hard-earned victory.

“This was a good win,” Kelly said. “We fought back. At first, we started out slow but then we figured it out. I started a little shaky at first, but then I had to find my groove and my tempo.” 

Team Crush scored once in the top of the first, but the damage could have been much worse. The leadoff batter walked and stole second. After a fly out to left field, Jayden Cassese singled to center, but the runner was erased at the plate on a strong throw by center fielder C.C. Kozak. 

Cassese, who finished 2-for-2, took second on the play. Jamie Morris singled to right field and Tim Pandekakas walked to load the bases. Ryan Arcamone then walked on a 3-1 pitch to bring in the run. The next batter popped out to second to end the inning.

Team Crush second baseman Nolan Hutson flips ball to first baseman Jamie Morris for an out.

The Hitmen were being held in check by Team Crush pitcher Matt Petrillo, who allowed only two base runners – on consecutive singles by Marcus Lavornia and Dom Parenti with two out in the second – until there were two out in the fourth. 

Kelly showed discipline at the plate with his two-out walk on a 3-2 pitch in that inning. His courtesy runner was Davyn Ciriaco, who stole second. The Hitmen continued to show more patience, and Yadi Pena drew a walk to extend the inning. Evan Villoresi then singled to right field to score Ciriaco with the tying run.

Kelly, who allowed just one base runner in each inning after the first, was now in a groove, and Team Crush went to its bullpen in the bottom of the sixth. 

Prodigy Hitmen took advantage of the pitching change, which coincided with the top of the order coming to the plate. 

Kozak led off the sixth with a walk, and he stole second. Ciriaco then hit an RBI double to right-center for a 2-1 lead. 

“It was nice to get things going, since I had been 0-for-2,” Ciriaco said. “I was looking to poke something through. This game was really good for our team chemistry, because at the beginning, we were a little lackadaisical, but then we turned it on.”

Ciriaco, who plays for North Plainfield High School, stole third with Kelly at the plate, and he scored the insurance run when Kelly grounded out to second base. 

Kelly closed out the game with the help of his defense in the top of the seventh. 

Davyn Ciriaco scores first run for Prodigy Hitmen on fourth-inning single by Evan Villoresi.

His first pitch of that inning hit a Team Crush batter. But the runner was promptly thrown out stealing by catcher Ryan Alessi. 

The next batter hit a grounder to first baseman Pena, who made a nifty stop and threw to a covering Kelly, just ahead of the runner who tried to beat the play with a head-first dive. 

Kelly then struck out the next batter looking to close out the win. 

“Being up two runs in the last inning gave me more comfort,” Kelly said. “My slider was working good, and I mixed that up with a changeup and fastball.”

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